Nord-Pas-de-Calais Attractions


Northern France, between the Ile de France and the Belgian frontier, consists of the old provinces of Picardy, Artois and Flanders, now included within the two administrative regions of Picardy and Nord-Pas-de-Calais. In the center of the area there are some of the finest French cathedrals, in the north there is France's largest industrial region, and in the west, along the shores of the Channel and the North Sea, there are stretches of beautiful coastal scenery and many attractive bathing resorts.

The old province of Picardy, on the northern fringe of the Paris basin, with Amiens as its capital, corresponds broadly to the present-day département of Somme and parts of Pas-de-Calais, Oise and Aisne. It consists of a chalk plateau 100-200m/325-650ft above sea level covered by a fertile layer of loam and traversed in the west by the Somme and in the east by the Oise but otherwise little broken up by rivers. It is predominantly an agricultural region, growing wheat, sugar-beet and textile plants. The damp oceanic climate has favored the development of pastoral farming (cheese production) over much of Picardy and the adjoining district of Thiérache to the east. Apart from agriculture, a major contribution to the economy is made by the textile industry.

Lille, France


Calais, France


Douai, France

Douai (pop. 44,742), an industrial town centered on coal, situated south of Lille on the river Scarpe, did not finally become French until 1713. From 1652 to 1889 it had a university, originally founded by the Spaniards. The central feature of the town is the Place d'Armes or Grand'Place. A short distance to the west is the 15th C. Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), with a defensive tower (the interior of which is open to the public). To the east is the Porte de Valenciennes (15th C.), a relic of the old town walls, and to the south of this, in an area once occupied by defensive works, is the municipal park.

Musée de la Chartreuse

In Chartreuse, north of the Town Hall is the church of St-Pierre (18th C.) which contains numerous pictures and has a massive 16th C. tower. On the far side of the Scarpe, housed in a former Carthusian monastery (16th and 17th C.), is the Musée de la Chartreuse, with works by French and Dutch artists, including the beautiful Anchin Altar (by J. Bellegambe, 1509-1513), a fine collection of Italian Renaissance pictures and prehistoric and Gallo-Roman antiquities.
Address: 130, rue des Chartreux, F-59500 Douai, France

Summer Festival

This large summer festival is the most popular in the region and takes place in early July. The festival honors Gayant who, according to legend, was the image of Jehan Sire De Cantin, the man who freed Douai from besieging Normans at the end of the ninth century.

Bergues, France

Bergues (pop. 4,207), surrounded by a deep moat and 17th C. walls, is a little town of very Flemish character. It has two town gates, the Porte de Cassel on the south side and the Couronne d'Hondschoote, dating from the 17th C. In the east of the town are the remains of the abbey of St- Winoc (a monumental gateway and two towers of the 18th C.). The 54 m/177ft high watch tower is a reconstruction of the original tower, destroyed in 1944, one of the finest in France.

Municipal Museum

The Municipal Museum, housed in the old Mont-de-Piété (municipal pawnshop), contains paintings by Flemish and French masters and a fine collection of 16th and 17th C. drawings.


13km/8mi east is Hondschoote, once a center of the worsted industry, which has a Renaissance Town Hall and a mill (the Nordmolen) which is believed to date from the 12th C.

Dunkirk, France

Dunkirk (French Dunkerque; pop. 71,300), France's most northerly town, lies on the North Sea coast near the end of the Straits of Dover, 14km/9mi from the Belgian frontier. It is a ferry port for the crossing to and from England and an important commercial port serving the industrial hinterland.

Place Jean-Bart

In the center of the town is Place Jean-Bart, with a monument to Dunkirk's most famous seafarer (1651-1702). At the north end of Rue Clemenceau is the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall, 1896-1901), in Flemish Renaissance style.


The Gothic church of St-Eloi (16th C; badly damaged in 1940) has an 18th C neo- classical facade and a free-standing defensive tower.


On the harbor is the massive Tour de Leughenaer, a relic of the old town walls which now serves as a lighthouse. West of this is the harbor, the third largest in France. From the lighthouse (59m/194ft tall) there is a fine view of the harbor, the town and out to sea.

Musée des Beaux-Arts

The Musée des Beaux-Arts, to the east of St-Eloi, has a rich collection of Dutch, French and Italian paintings.
Address: Place du Général de Gaulle, F-59140 Dunkerque, France

Musée d'Art Contemporain

In the north of the town, set in a sculpture park, is the Musée d'Art Contemporain (designed by Jean Willerval), with over 600 works of the years 1950-1988.
Address: Avenue des Bains, F-59140 Dunkerque, France

Military Attraction

Dunkirk was the scene of one of the most dramatic military rescues of al time as scores of boats carried trapped Allied troops to safety during the World War II.

Dunkirk Carnival

The annual Dunkirk Carnival takes place in late February to early March and includes concerts, dances and a traditional carnival parade.

St Omer, France

St Omer (pop. 16,595), formerly belonging to the County of Flanders, lies in Artois, between Calais and Lille. The town grew up around a Benedictine monastery founded in the seventh century. In the west of the town, on Place du Maréchal-Foch, is the modern Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), which also houses the Municipal Theater.

Abbey of St Bertin

On the east of the town are the ruins of the abbey of St-Bertin, founded in 1640. Northeast of the Town Hall is the church of St-Sépulcre (13th-14th century).

Museum of Natural History

To the south are the Henri-Depuis Museum of Natural History and the former cathedral of Notre- Dame (13th-15th C.), with a 50 m/165ft high tower, a fine south doorway and a richly decorated interior; in the church is the tomb of St Omer.

Musée des Beaux-Arts

Northeast of Notre-Dame is the Musée des Beaux-Arts, with prehistoric and Roman remains, weapons, medieval objets d'art, faience, furniture, Flemish tapestries and a fine collection of pictures.
Address: 14 rue Carnot, F-62520 St-Omer, France

Helfaut - La Coupole

La Coupole was built in 1943-44 by the Nazis as the base and launch against London during World War II. The enormous dome of concrete was constructed above the site to protect it. In 1987, it was transformed into a place of education and remembrance. In early 1997, the Historic Centre of War and Rockets was linked to La Coupole.
Address: BP 284, F-62504 Helfaut, France

Valenciennes, France

The industrial town of Valenciennes (pop. 42,343), once famed as a lace-making center, lies in the center of a coalfield near the Belgian frontier. It was the birthplace of the painter Antoine Watteau (1684-1721).

Musée des Beaux-Arts (Notre Dame du St Cordon)

Its main features of interest are the Musée des Beaux-Arts, with a fine collection of Flemish, Dutch, Italian and French paintings, the neo-Romanesque pilgrimage church of Notre Dame du St Cordon (1852-1865) and the church of St-Géry, built in 1225 but altered in later centuries.


13km/8mi north of Valenciennes is the old fortified town of Condé-sur- l'Escaut, with a castle built in 1410.
The site of the town has had military importance since even Roman times. Located at the confluence of two rivers provided the name from a Celtic word meaning "confluence".

Cambrai, France

Cambrai (pop. 34,993), on the right bank of the canalized Escaut (Scheldt), was the home of the fine fabric known as cambric, first made here in the 15th C.
The central feature of the town is the spacious Place Aristide- Briand, with the massive neo-classical Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall, 19th C.). A little to the west is the 18th C. church of St-Géry, with a 76 m/250ft high tower, which has a Baroque rood screen (1632) and an "Entombment" by Rubens. Opposite the church is the former Archbishop's Palace, with a fine Renaissance doorway (1620).
Southeast of this is the Beffroi (15th and 18th C.), the belfry of a church which has since been demolished. The Municipal Museum contains a variety of material, including archeological finds from the area and an interesting collection of pictures from the 16th to 20th C.
Farther south is the Cathedral of Notre-Dame (18th C.; rennovated in 1859), with a fine Baroque interior. It contains the tomb of the theologian and writer Fénelon (1651-1715), with a monument by David d'Angers (1826), and other tombs, and also a number of pictures. Opposite it, to the west, is the fine Baroque facade of the Chapelle du Grand Séminaire (1692), which belonged to a Jesuit college. Other features of interest are a number of handsome old half-timbered houses like the Maison Espagnole, remains of earlier fortifications (Porte de Paris, 1390), two town gates and the 16th C. Citadel.

Boulogne-sur-Mer, France

Boulogne (pop. 45,508), situated on the river Liane, which here flows into the Channel (Straits of Dover), is France's largest fishing port and one of its most important commercial ports, as well as a popular seaside resort.
From the Place Frédéric-Sauvage, on the right bank of the Liane Quai Gambetta runs to the harbor, formed in the estuary of the river. In the Grande Rue, to the east of Place Frédéric- Sauvage, is the church of St-Nicolas (13th-18th century).
At the east end of the Grande Rue is the upper town, a rectangle surrounded by massive walls with four gates. Near the south end are the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall, 1734), with a keep (12th and 18th C; views), the Palais de Justice (Law Courts) and the Library, housed in a former monastic building of the 13th C. Near the north end is the church of Notre-Dame (1827-1866), in Greco-Roman style, with a massive dome (11th C crypt, treasury).
In the castle is a museum with a geological collection, a collection of antiquities and works by 19th C French painters.

Nausicaa Centre National de la Mer

Nausicaa is Europe's largest sea experience museum. It contains both aquariums and exhibits on underwater plant and animal life. Nausicaa has more than 6,000 fish of more than 300 different species.
Included in the aquariums is an underwater aquarium where visitors can look at fish through portholes, a tropical lagoon and the only jellyfish aquarium in France and England.
There is also a marine library.

Battle of Napoleon

Every year the residents of this town reconstruct a battle of Napoleon, all wearing period costumes. Historians say that numerous military strategists and a large army resided at Boulogne-sur-Mer during Napoleon's time.

Festival de la Côte d'Opale

This large two-week festival, Festival de la Côte d'Opale, takes place in the 10 towns that run along the Côte d'Opale, from Dunkirk to Berck-sur-Mer. Events include various concerts, ranging from jazz to pop.
Address: 19, Boulevard clocheville, F-62200 Boulogne-sur-Mer, France

Music & Remparts Festival

This annual two-week festival takes place in early to mid-June and includes concerts of classical and folk music from France and Britain.

Arras, France

Arras (pop. 43,566), once the capital of the old County of Artois and now chief town of the département of Pas-de-Calais and the see of a bishop, lies between Amiens and Lille on the right bank of the Scarpe. With its spacious arcaded squares and high-gabled burghers' houses, it has preserved much of the character of an old Flemish commercial town. The town was famed for its tapestries (hence the English word "arras"). During World War I the Arras area was the scene of heavy fighting, commemorated by many military cemeteries and memorials, particularly in the hilly country north of the town.

Place des Héros

In the center of Arras is the arcaded Place des Héros, with the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall; 15th- 16th C., rebuilt after the First World War). The belfry, which also served as a watch tower, displays the lion of Arras. The Grande Place to the northeast, which is also arcaded, has preserved its 17th C. aspect with its high-gabled houses.

Arras Cathedral

In Arras, northwest of the Hôtel de Ville is the cathedral, originally the abbey church of St-Vaast, which was rebuilt in the 18th C. in neo-classical style. It contains a 15th C. head of Christ in wood and a 17th C. "Scourging". South of the church is the former abbey of St-Vaast (18th C.), now housing the Musée des Beaux-Arts (medieval sculpture, pictures of the 16th-18th C. and French 19th C. masters, including Corot and Delacroix). Farther south again is the birthplace of Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794).

Vimy Ridge

Atop the site once known as 'The Pimple', is the stirring Vimy Memorial. Its two white pillars reaching up high over the crest of the ridge mark the spot where the final German defensive in the battle for Vimy Ridge was overcome.
Its importance is marked by the fact that this land was donated to Canada for their accomplishment in capturing what was considered the most heavily fortified position on the western front in World War I.

Musée des Beaux Arts

The Musée des Beaux Arts is situated in the former Benedictine abbey of Saine-Vaast. It houses a collection of medieval sculptures, 17th C paintings, porcelain and works by 19th C artists as well as an archaeology exhibit.
Address: 22 rue Paul Doumer, F-62000 Arras, France

Montreuil, France

Montreuil (pop. 2,960), on a hill above the river Canche, is still surrounded by its 17th C. fortifications, designed by Vauban. The Citadel dates from the 16th C. (view). The former collegiate church of St-Saulve (11th and 12th C.) has some beautiful capitals and paintings (18th C.). The chapel of the Hôtel-Dieu, built in the Flamboyant style, is richly furnished. On the opposite bank of the Canche stands the former Carthusian priory of Notre-Dame-des-Prés (1314), restored by Viollet-le-Duc in 1870.

Cassel, France

The little town of Cassel (pop. 2,300), beautifully situated on a hill, has preserved many old burghers' houses (16th, 17th and 18th C.). In the Hôtel de la Noble Cour (16th-17th C.) is a historical museum. There are panoramic views from the Jardin Public. A walk up Mont Cassel, with its restored 18th C. wooden windmill and fine view, will be found rewarding.
Within Cassel there is also an 18th C windmill.

Cassel Carnival

Cassel Carnival is an annual day-long carnival, France's most famous and takes place on Easter Monday. Events appeal to the whole family.

Tourcoing, France

Tourcoing (pop. 91,800) is a rapidly developing industrial town near the Belgian frontier. Along with Roubaix and other industrial towns it is part of a conurbation around Lille with a population of around 300,000.
The city of Tourcoing is home to a fine arts museum, several theatres, and a multi-media library.

Jazz Festival

This annual jazz festival runs from mid-October to late November in Tourcoing and Greater Lille. Musicians from around the world perform from traditional to progressive jazz.
Address: Hospice d'Havré, 100 rue de Tournai, F-59200 Tourcoing, France

Roubaix, France

Northeast of Lille, near the Belgian frontier, is the large industrial city of Roubaix (pop. 95,900), the main center of the textile industry in northern France. The Gothic church of St- Martin dates from the 16th C. A popular attraction for visitors is the large and beautiful Parc de Barbieux.

Bavay, France

Bavay (pop. 4,400), east of Valenciennes, has remains of the Romn town of Bagacum (mid A.D. second C). The site was excavated from 1942 onwards and finds are displayed in the Musée Archéologique.

Musée Archéologique

Musée Archéologique in Bavay contains a collection of pottery dating from prehistory to the present day and the largest collection of bronzes in Europe.
Address: 2 rue des Gommeries, BP 41, F-59570 Bavay, France

Felleries - Moulin des Bois Jolis

The Museum of Fine Wood Felleries is a two-wheel water-driven flour mill. It houses items made from turned wood and photographic documents of life from 1880 to 1900.
Address: 46 route de Ramousies, F-59740 Felleries, France

Le Cateau, France

Le Cateau (pop. 7,453) was the birthplace of the painter Henri Matisse (1869-1954). The Matisse Museum in the Town Hall has works by him and by contemporary artists. Also of interest are the church of St-Martin (1635) and the Archbishop's Palace.

Le Quesnoy, France

Le Quesnoy (pop. 4,917) has well preserved 17th C fortifications designed by Vauban, now surrounded by public gardens.
2km/1.5mi east is the fortified castle of Potelle (15th C).

Le Touquet, France

Le Touquet (pop. 5,315) is one of the most fashionable resorts on the "Opal Coast", founded in the 19th century. Situated in a well-wooded area, it has a wide range of sports facilities and an attractive seafront promenade.

International Music Festival

This annual two-week festival takes place in early to mid-August in Le Touquet. Concerts range from classical to jazz.

Motorbike Festival

Hundreds of motorbikes convene on this small town every year in late February for a day of riding through the dunes and over the beaches.

Espace - Fête des Parcs Naturels Régionaux

This annual festival is held on the last Sunday of September and includes traditional games and children's activities.
Address: 17 rue Jean Roisin, Box 73, F-59028 Lille, France

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